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What’s your story? (You’re telling one whether you want to or not.)

The Spiraling Windows at Biltmore House

What stories do you tell your children (and yourself!) about learning?

It is an almost universal phenomenon that people are profoundly moved and impressed by the stories we tell each other (and ourselves) about what we are doing and why.

Almost everything we say or do is deeply intertwined with the stories we are currently hearing and telling.

From that standpoint, parents are largely responsible for marketing learning to their children. We determine the stories our children learn about learning.

The “marketing” term sounds icky, but it’s not as bad as it sounds.

Really anytime we interact with other people we are making an impression on them by our enthusiasm or indifference; our ideas and opinions; our words and actions. These cues work collectively to tell others a story about ourselves and what we think is important in life, whether we want them to or not.

What stories do you tell about the value of learning?

  • “We learn because it is ‘the law’.”
  • “We learn because we can’t help it!”
  • “. . .Because I said so!”
  • “. . .Because it will help us live happy and prosperous lives.”
  • “. . .Because learning helps us make the world a better place.”

I’m certain I’ve told all these stories (and more) at some point. No question, some of these are more motivational, long-term, than others. Those are the stories I hope to emphasize to myself and my children.

The important thing, I think, is not to say that some stories should be used and others shouldn’t, but that we should try to be aware of the story we are telling. Then we can decide if that story is accurate, and if it will get us where we need to go.

What stories do you tell?

Photo credit: Biltmore Estate 4 by Emilia Miná Bicking
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4 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. bakinchick

    You’re right that we tell different stories at different times to our children about the WHY of education. For our family, ultimately we boil back to “You need an education so that no matter what God calls you to, you’ll be prepared and free to follow that call.”

    In more literal terms, storytelling has a powerful effect in our family. Both my husband and I come from families where our fathers taught many family histories and lessons in story form. And now, without much conscious decision about it, both my husband and I tell stories both real and imaginary to our children. Sometimes it is to convey real information about our families, and sometimes it is to create positive behaviour changes by allowing our “story families” to experience trials and tasks similar to our own.

  2. april

    Thanks Bakinchick! Your examples are just what I had in mind. My intent was to begin the discussion with stories about learning, such as your first example, but I was really hoping someone would bring up the larger role of story telling in our parenting, and in our lives, too! So thanks a bunch for starting up both so well!

    Preparation for following our calling(s) is a noble goal – I love it.

    Consciously telling stories is not something that I have always practiced, but once I did start thinking about it, it seemed like such a great concept. If we are telling stories whether we mean to or not, we may as well make our stories good ones, right?

    At the very least, it gets us thinking about why we are doing what we are doing, instead of just randomly reacting without thinking about our overall goals in a given situation.

  3. You are so right! The story I most want my kids to hear is that it’s fun to learn, but so often I fall back on…shall we say..less than motivating stories!?

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